Public Power Week — A Message from Larry Weis, Seattle City Light GM & CEO

City Light General Manager and CEO Larry Weis

Public Power Week is an opportunity to celebrate the publicly-owned utilities across the country.

Since 1905, Seattle City Light has provided safe, reliable and affordable power to its customers. City Light has a powerful history and prides itself on its Northwest values – this includes social responsibility, energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.

As we celebrate our past, we must also look toward and prepare for the future.

The good news is that City Light is adapting and working to stay ahead. We’re actively and creatively becoming the “Utility of the Future,” an agile organization able to adjust to a changing industry and a changing environment.

Rest assured – one thing that will not change is our unwavering commitment to our customers and providing safe, reliable and affordable power.

Seattle City Light Celebrates Public Power Week

 

Starting Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, Seattle City Light will be joining more than 2,000 public utilities as it celebrates Public Power Week, hosted by the American Public Power Association.

Throughout the week, you will meet some of City Light’s hard-working staff, learn more about the utility’s history and find out more about what public power means to you. 

Follow the Seattle City Light Facebook account to participate in City Light’s personalized version of Public Power Week. With seven days full of content, videos and photos — the utility put together a guide (below), so you can follow along and celebrate Public Power Week!

 

Day #1 – “Substation Sunday”
Michael Clark, Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation Program Manager, explains how the Denny Substation is known as “The World’s Coolest Substation.”

 

 

Day #2 – “Meaningful Monday”
Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, Larry Weis, starts the day off with an introduction of how important it is to be publicly powered.

 

 

Day #3 – “Tech Tuesday”
Meet the Seattle City Light Energy Advisors and learn more about the importance of energy conservation and other green-minded tips.

 

 

Day #4 – “Working Wednesday”
Seattle City Light lineworkers and interns share their rewarding experience of helping customers and the community while working for the utility.

 

 

Day #5 – “Throwback Thursday”
This #TBT is dedicated to the powerful history of Seattle City Light and being one of the first publicly-owned utilities in the nation.

 

 

Day #6 – “Future Friday”
Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, Larry Weis, explains how the utility will move forward into the ever-changing industry.

 

 

 

Day #7 – “Safety Saturday”
It’s almost storm season, so time to brush up on your safety skills. Learn more safety tips from some of Seattle City Light’s Safety Team.

 

 

City of Seattle brings Utility Discount to 10,000 more households

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Director Andrew Lofton announced proposed changes to the Utility Discount Program (UDP) to auto-enroll more than 10,000 low-income Seattle Housing Authority households. Today’s announcement puts the City on track to surpass the Mayor’s goal to double program enrollment two years ahead of schedule.

“As Seattle’s economy continues to grow, we know that economic gains have not reached all our neighbors. Too many families are still struggling to meet basic needs,” said Murray.  “This partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority will cut utility bills in half for financially strapped residents so they can manage their utility costs on tight budgets.”

“The majority of people we serve at the Seattle Housing Authority are in the very lowest income segment,” said Lofton. “The extension of the City’s Utility Discount Program to our residents and voucher tenants will make a tremendous difference in their ability to pay for basic utilities and still afford food, medications and other necessities.”

Once auto-enrollment is complete, the UDP will provide more than $10 million in utility assistance each year to SHA tenants. This will cut in half their Seattle electric, water, garbage/recycling, sewage and drainage bills. The average household benefit will be $1,030 per year.

This move is a part of Murray’s commitment to address Seattle’s growing income inequality and remove institutional barriers between services and those in need. In 2014, Mayor Murray challenged City Departments to double the number of households enrolled in the UDP from 14,000 to 28,000 by the end of 2018.

“I would like to thank SHA for providing a place to stay and the Mayor for giving those of us living in subsidized housing the opportunity to participate in the Utility Discount Program,” said Ed Frezier, a resident at Rainier Vista in South Seattle. “I am on disability and have a limited income. After I pay my bills, the lights, phone, water, there’s nothing left.  This will leave me with a few dollars to buy groceries and whatever else is needed. It’s a blessing.”

After legislation to enact today’s proposal is approved by the Seattle City Council, all income-eligible households of Seattle Housing Authority will be notified that they have been auto-enrolled in the Utility Discount Program, beginning August 1, 2016. All households will have the opportunity to opt out of the Utility Discount Program if they prefer. The Council will take up this proposal this spring. Current City ordinances prevent SHA tenants from participating in the program.

The Utility Discount Program offers a credit of 60 percent on Seattle City Light bills and 50 percent on Seattle Public Utilities bills. This program is available for residential City Light and Seattle Public Utilities customers only and does not apply to residences used for business purposes. Eligible households must have income of less than 70 percent of state median household income, about $60,000 for a family of four.

Today’s expansion of the UDP to SHA tenants is paid for by all utility customers. The average Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities bill will increase between 0.5 percent and 0.65 percent in coming years.

“This auto-enrollment program change supports people in need and minimizes bureaucracy.  This is truly government at its best,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents the West Seattle and South Park communities.  “Thousands of low-income Seattleites will no longer need to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table.  I’m fully committed to expanding access to the UDP program even further.”

“Having light, heat, and water are basic needs that every resident should have,” said Council President Bruce Harrell. “As a compassionate City, we have demonstrated our commitment to helping our residents by continually improving one of the strongest utility discount programs in the nation.”

“I have strenuously advocated for auto-enrollment into the Utility Discount Program. Studies show auto-enrollment results in systematically greater access,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. “I am grateful to Kelly Enright at Seattle City Light for tirelessly working on this. Even after this step, there will still be thousands of others who will need to be enrolled, and I look forward to continue working with City Light and the Mayor’s office.”

This program expansion builds upon a partnership with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to auto-enroll eligible households of other affordable housing projects, reducing administrative barriers to utility discount services.

Ray Hoffman, Seattle Public Utilities Director, Larry Weis, Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, and Catherine Lester, Human Services Department Director, were also in attendance at today’s event.

The UDP program is funded by both Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities and is administered by the Seattle Human Services Department. Utility Discount Program eligibility information and application materials can be found here.

Murray nominates Austin’s Larry Weis as City Light CEO

Today Mayor Ed Murray nominated Larry Weis, general manager of Austin Energy, to become the next general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

“Larry stood out among our many applicants from across the country,” said Murray. “He is an accomplished and recognized leader in the nation’s utility industry. In Austin, he demonstrated strong financial management skills and deep concern for the welfare of his employees. Under Larry’s leadership, City Light will continue to support a vibrant economy as the nation’s greenest utility, while providing access to affordable service to all of Seattle families.”

“I was attracted to City Light’s tremendous record as a national leader in delivering affordable, reliable, renewable energy to its customers,” said Weis. “City Light has a long heritage of developing and operating hydroelectric projects and a robust energy distribution system. As a Northwest native, I look forward to returning to Seattle.”

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction. For a recent progress report from Seattle City Light, see Power Lines.

Weis was born in Seattle, raised in Central Washington and received a B.S. in Electrical and Mechanical Technology at Western Washington University. After starting his career at Snohomish County PUD, he served as general manager at Pend Oreille PUD, Turlock Irrigation District in California and finally at Austin Energy, the nation’s third largest municipally owned utility.

Austin Energy serves 1.6 million Texas residents, employs 1,800 people and has a strong reputation for supporting energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and worker safety.

With Weis at the helm at Austin Energy, the utility made dramatic increases in renewable energy generation, acquiring the largest solar projects in Texas, as well as several wind energy projects. Wind, solar and other renewable sources now represent about one-quarter of the utility’s power generation, and by 2025, half the utility’s energy will come from renewable resources.

A search committee representing Seattle energy experts, environmental organizations, energy assistance non-profits and labor unions provided input during the selection process.

“Larry’s track record as a utility executive, both here in the Northwest and down in Austin, has been impressive,” said Ash Awad, Vice President of McKinstry. “He’s led with innovation, especially on smart grid technology and energy efficiency, and I look forward to him bringing that same level of innovation here to Seattle.”

“We appreciated the opportunity for organized labor to be involved in the selection process,” said Joe Simpson with IBEW Local 77. “We are very interested in working with Larry to support the health and safety of City Light’s high-voltage workers.”

“It’s not too often that Seattle looks to Texas for environmental leadership, but under Larry Weis, Austin Energy has been among the nation’s leaders in renewable energy development, energy efficiency and electrifying the transportation system,” said Michael Mann, board chair of Emerald Cities Seattle and former director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. “We are excited to have attracted a leader like Larry Weiss to Seattle City Light.”

Weis will start at City Light on Feb.1. His starting salary will be $340,000. The Seattle City Council must confirm the nomination.

Jim Baggs, a senior leader at the utility for nearly 5 years, has served as interim general manager at City Light since last spring.

“I want to extend my thanks to Jim for his dedicated service as interim general manager,” said Mayor Murray. “Whether it was his thoughtful, caring response to a recent workplace injury or his active leadership during the windstorm last August, I could always count on Jim.”